By Lewis A. Dubuque
Executive Vice President, New York State Builders Association
Gov. Cuomo has indicated the importance of a regional approach to restarting New York economy. Unfortunately for New Yorkers, market-rate residential construction is currently considered an essential industry in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Delaware, but not here in New York.
Further, New Jersey and Vermont are allowing projects that are currently under contract to be completed with a maximum of five employees on the job site, and Pennsylvania is allowing construction projects to resume with four people on a job site.
Michigan announced last week that they will allow residential construction to resume on May 7. This leaves New York is the only state in the entire country that has not allowed market-rate residential construction to resume.
At best, residential construction will be allowed to begin in some regions of the state as early as May 15, and in other regions no sooner than June 1. The governor says that he is following the data and facts before allowing business to reopen, but it is clear that he is ignoring the fact that 49 of the 50 states have allowed market-rate residential construction to resume in one form or another.
Builders in New York state have a limited timeframe based on the weather to undertake construction of residential housing. It is critical for the building industry to get back to work to capture as much of the remaining construction season as possible. Residential construction companies that reside in areas that border other states further risk losing valuable subcontractors who may search for employment in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey and Ohio where construction is currently ramping up.
The current essential business construct does not have to be changed in any way to accommodate residential construction. Building code officials, material suppliers and local government officials are already considered essential.
It is not too much to ask for New York to allow residential construction companies to resume working on projects that were already in place before New York shut down businesses on March 22. Home builders are ready and able to respond to Gov. Cuomo’s challenge to “reimagine the workplace.” We are currently working diligently at this difficult time to provide innovative ways to respond to this crisis by continuing to provide employment and shelter for New York state’s residents.
All of our member companies currently have protocols in place to implement a safe work environment for the workers to limit the possibility of the spread of coronavirus. The residential construction work environment is uniquely situated to effectively limit the spread of coronavirus to the public and protect workers at the job site with safety protocols. That is why every other state has already allowed market-rate residential construction to resume. We believe that New York should, as well.